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How did Henry VII find the tomb of King Arthur…?

King Arthur

King Arthur

 

 The following article is based on books by Chris Barber and David Pykitt, so I do not claim anything as my own work. The books are The Legacy of King Arthur and Journey to Avalon. It is also based on a third book by Chris Barber called King Arthur: The Mystery Unravelled, which contains more about Henry VII and King Arthur. The illustration of St Armel’s tomb is also from one of the books, the rest I found by Googling. I recommend all three works as fascinating reads about the eternally fascinating King Arthur.

According to the above authors, Henry VII knew that he was not only descended from King Arthur, but also the identity that the king assumed, and exactly where he was buried.

These are astonishing claims, because to this day no one else really knows,  so how come Henry VII was au fait with these astonishing details back in the 15th century? I mean, we all know how cunning and secretive Henry was, so he was quite capable of inventing it all, but the inference in the above books is that there was nothing invented at all. Henry was on the level. According to his lights.

Arthur and Bedivere

The thing about Arthur, has always been that when he was “mortally” wounded at his last battle, now thought to be Camlann (the whereabouts of which is not known), he just disappears. We have the story of Sir Bedivere having to be told three times to throw Excalibur into the water to the Lady of the Lake, and that’s…well, the end of it, really. He was last seen being taken away across water to be healed by magic of some sort. Of course, I’m referring to the later romances, not the real Arthur, who was a Dark Age war leader, but even so, the outcome is the same. No one knows what happened to him. Except for Henry Tudor, who, somehow, had all the facts.

Henry - Dodd, Old London Bridge 1745 (2)

Henry VII

Henry was proud of his Welsh roots. At least, he was when he needed his countrymen’s help to usurp the throne of Richard III. After that, he didn’t do much for Wales or the Welsh…except decide to claim King Arthur for himself. Arthur being Welsh too, you understand. Well, that’s my opinion, but I know there are a lot of other theories about the who, where, what and why of the real Arthur.

According to Barber and Pykitt, as far back as the eighteenth century, Arthur was known to be the hereditary leader of the Silures in South Wales, yet the vast majority of modern historians choose to ignore this, placing him anywhere and everywhere except South Wales. Oh, with a passing mention of Caerleon. Hmm, it must be a general failing of modern historians, to ignore obvious truths in order to feed a traditional obsession.

An examination of early Welsh genealogies revealed to Barber and Pykitt that a misinterpretation by academics had mixed up two Arthurs. Gildas, the monk, mentions a charioteer belonging to someone known as “The Bear”. The Celtic word for bear is “arth”, and so it is possible that the name Arthur is a nickname derived from the title Arthwyr. Whatever, the result was that the Welsh Arthrwys, whose title was Arthwyr, to a later century, and thus detaching him from the Arthur of legend and history. Once this mistake was discovered and corrected, the authors were able to locate not only Arthur’s court, the sites of his most of his principal battles and the Isle of Avalon, but even his final resting place in Brittany.

feuilleton-Armel1

In Nennius’s Historia Brittonem Arthur is described as not only a military leader, but a religious one too, which brings me to another important point in the story. Now, apart from the Arthur we all know, there was also a soldier-saint named Arthmael (Bear Prince), or Armel. He is portrayed wearing armour—in his guise as “Miles Fortissimus” (Mighty Warrior).

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St Armel – Church of Our Lady, Merevale

He liberated Brittany from the 6th-century tyranny of Marcus Conomorus. This soldier-saint is known to us now as St Armel (Feast Day tomorrow, 16th August), and his tomb can be seen to this day in Armel’s church at Ploërmel. The stone sarcophagus is empty now, but the identification of the saint’s resting place is definite. There is a gilded casket which is said to contain the saint’s jawbone. The church itself has been rebuilt on the site of the original church, and the tomb incorporated.

St Armel's Tomb

Barber and Pykitt have concluded that after Arthur was deposed and apparently fatally wounded in England, he actually went into exile in Brittany—“Little Britain”, where so many of his countrymen were to be found. Thus arose the story of the Once and Future King, because Arthur didn’t die as such, he simply disappeared, leaving his fate unknown to his countrymen. They, of course, hoped he would return. Then, in Brittany, Arthur became St Armel, the Bear Prince, using all his warrior skills to lead the Bretons to freedom. Crucially, St Armel was also an exiled Welshman, and so Henry would certainly feel an affinity with him, if nothing else. Is this connection rather a great leap? Who can say? After all, the authors’ reasoning concerning so many names that contain “bear” in one form or another, seems perfectly logical.

St Armel, a dragon-slayer like St George, was most certainly one of Henry VII’s favourite saints, appearing among the many saints in Henry’s amazing chapel in Westminster Abbey. And Henry, in his determination to establish his links to Arthur, made sure that his firstborn son was not only born in  Winchester, but also christened with the name Arthur. Winchester was the ancient capital of the Kings of Britain, and believed (by Malory) to be the site of Camelot. Whether Henry VII agreed with the latter is debatable. After all, surely he’d have preferred Camelot to be somewhere in Wales. But what the heck, in the 15th century Winchester was where it was at, as the saying goes. It had even possessed the famous Round Table since the time of Edward I. The table that hangs in Winchester was painted as we know it now by Henry VIII, and so after Henry VII would have known it in its green-and-white guise.

It all went awry, of course, because young Arthur, heir to the throne of England, died before his father. So there wasn’t a second King Arthur, just another Henry. And what a Henry. Say no more. Please.

There is a lot of extra detail and explanation in the books, both of which are well worth reading. When Henry and his uncle, Jasper Tudor, fled from Britain in 1471, he believed that he was saved from shipwreck off the coast of Brittany by none other than St Armel. The dragon-slaying Welsh saint always featured prominently throughout Henry’s life, and is represented in his chapel (more a cathedral) at Westminster Abbey.

Henry_VII_Chapel_Canaletto

Henry VII Chapel, Westminster Abbey Canaletto

Of course, Henry spent a long time as a captive in Brittany, hunted unsuccessfully by two kings of England, Edward IV and Richard III. In Brittany it was known there was a King Arthur and a St Armel, but the connection between the two had apparently not been made. Ploërmel, where St Armel was buried, is not far from some of the places where Henry was held. (See the example of Chateau de Largoët below – and see more of Henry’s early life in Brittany here)

Chateau de Largoet, outside the town of Elven

Chateau de Largoet, outside the town of Elven

If nothing else, Henry was a sharp cookie, and quite capable of putting two and two together to make a total that might be true and that definitely suited him. He would have heard the local tales and memories, so maybe—just maybe—he drew the same conclusions that Barber and Pykitt would all these centuries later, to wit, that the saint and King Arthur were one and the same.

We’ll never know the truth, of course. But one thing we can be sure of with Henry, he went out of his way to claim descent from Arthur, and brandished this claim at every opportunity. His purpose was to imprint the belief that his occupation of the throne was justified. Which it certainly wasn’t, except by conquest. His lineage was, if anything, a hindrance. He had no right to the crown of England, and only won at Bosworth through a fluke (by the name of Sir William Stanley).

Were it not for “Judas” Stanley, Henry and his grand Arthurian claims would have been consigned to history. Hardly remembered at all, in fact. A mere footnote – as the loser on 22nd August 1485.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Richard, the Stanleys and the Harringtons….

Joseph Mallord William Turner - Ingleborough from the Terrace of Hornby Castle

Joseph Mallord Turner – Ingleborough from the terrace of Hornby Castle

Well, I always knew the Stanley brothers were sh-1-ts (yes, I’m being relatively polite – that is a 1 not an i) and this article (link below) confirms my opinion. No doubt a lot of you will already know the story of the Harringtons’ struggle against the thieving self-interest of the Stanley brothers, Thomas and William, who wanted everything, especially the Harringtons’ seat of Hornby Castle in Lancashire. But Edward IV intervened and settled in favour of the Stanleys, presumably because he wanted their support. He granted Thomas Stanley the custody and marriages of the two Harrington heiresses. So Richard wasn’t able to save the family from the Stanleys,  but it certainly aroused the latter’s ire.hornbycastlelancashire_large

Many of you will also have read this 2010 article or Hipshon’s book, but in case you haven’t, it is very informative. This bitter quarrel, and Richard’s support for the Harringtons, which was renewed when he became king, probably is behind the treachery at Bosworth. Nothing to do with Henry Tudor and Margaret Beaufort, but everything to do with an overwhelming desire to be avenged on Richard for backing the Harringtons. The Stanleys bore an almighty grudge, but hid it behind apparent new allegiance to Henry Tudor. My opinion, of course.

Footnote: The events described above, i.e. Richard coming out in favour of the Harringtons in the 1460s, came to a head only a week or so after an earlier instance of Thomas Stanley’s propensity for treachery against England’s reigning king, this time Edward IV, and it was Richard who exposed him. Edward must have regretted deciding in Stanley’s favour. I will describe it all in an article scheduled for the day after tomorrow.

SIR WILLIAM STANLEY – TURNCOAT OR LOYALIST

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It is well documented how, through the treasonable and treacherous actions of Sir William Stanley at Bosworth, Richard lost his crown and his life. He was hacked to death after Stanley, who brought 3000 men with him, intervened at the crucial point when Richard, with his household cavalry in a heroic charge, came within a hair’s breadth of reaching Tudor and despatching him.  There is a story that after Richard’s crown was found under a hawthorn bush, it was Stanley who crowned him.

Sir William seems to have been one of those people who can run with the hounds and play with the foxes, doing well under Edward IV, who made him Chamberlain of Chester and, interestingly, Steward of the Prince of Wales’ Household(1).  Later Richard made Stanley Chief Justice of North Wales and finally Tudor made him Lord Chamberlain and Knight of the Garter.  It is said that Stanley – step-uncle to Tudor and brother-in-law to Margaret Beaufort – was one of the richest men in England.  Bacon estimated his income at 3000 pounds a year.  Stanley was also step-father to Francis Lovell, having married Lovell’s mother, Joan Beaufort, widow of John Lovell, 8th Baron Lovell, but I digress!

Fast forward 10 years and it all ended ignominiously at Tower Hill, where Stanley was beheaded on 16 February 1495 for the treasonable act of communicating with Perkin Warbeck.  Stanley was accused of telling Robert Clifford, who informed on him, that if he was sure Perkin was indeed Edward’s son ‘he would never take up arms against him’.

The question I am raising here is not so much about Stanley’s interminable fence-sitting, which is common knowledge  – and a penchant he shared with his brother Thomas – but rather, did Sir William, an apparent dyed-in-the-wool turncoat, capable of the greatest untrustworthiness, actually possess a latent streak of honour, perhaps dating from the time when he was Steward to the Princes of Wales’ Household?  Did his time there give birth to a fierce loyalty to Edward’s sons, that later emerged with such a passion that he risked all, absolutely all,  when he joined the Perkin Warbeck plot?  Did he grow fond of young Edward, later focusing this affection on Edward’s brother, Richard of Shrewsbury, whom Warbeck purported to be?  OR, was he, as the historian Gairdner (2) suggested, merely attempting to secure his position in the event of an invasion?

(1)  Ramsay, Lancaster and York, ii 482

(2) W A J Archbold ‘Sir William Stanley and Perkin Warbeck’ English Historical Review 14( 1899) pp 529-534. ‘On 14 March (year unknown) Gairdner suggested in a note to Archbold that Stanley may ‘simply have wanted to secure his position with both sides in case of an invasion’.  I am grateful for this information which I have gleaned from Helen Maurer’s ‘Whodunit – The Suspects in the Case’.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Richard the FUTILE warrior? I think not….!

Stapleton, Leics

Well, I don’t know that all the facts are correct in this article. For instance, Richard’s effort (i.e. his going into battle at all against HT) was ‘futile’??? Sorry, but Richard went into that battle quite rightly certain he would triumph.

And he went into battle in a raging temper because he knew the Stanleys were doing the dirty on him? Hmm. He may have been justifiably suspicious of them, but he didn’t find out how faithless and slippery they really were until well after the battle had commenced. Only then did he realize victory wasn’t certain after all, and that’s when his fury erupted! He fought like a demon and got within a hair’s breadth of Henry Tudor, who never entered the fray, but lurked timidly behind his bodyguards. That was Tudor’s policy on a battlefield—never endanger one’s precious self by mixing it with all those nasty knights.

And, sadly, Tudor was the one who died in his bed. But Richard is the one who died in glory, admired by all, even his enemies, for the courage, ferocity and skill of his fighting. No one could ever look at Tudor and say, “Wow! Now there’s a great knight!” Everyone thought it of King Richard III.

But the article is interesting for all that.

http://www.hinckleytimes.net/news/local-news/past-times-history-stapleton-11728828

 

Three howlers in the only sentence that mentions Richard….!

Henrietta Leyser

More groaning from Yours Truly, I fear. At the weekend I was taken to see Berry Pomeroy Castle in Devon. It was very beautiful, and my complaint is not to do with the castle, but with a book I bought in the gift shop.

It’s called Medieval Women, is by Henrietta Leyser, and has mixed reviews, although I had not heard of it before buying it. See it at:- https://www.amazon.co.uk/product-reviews/B00D3J2QE8/ref=acr_dpproductdetail_text?ie=UTF8&showViewpoints=1

Being Richard’s strong supporter, I went straight to the index to find him. (Don’t we all?) One reference came up, on page 174. Here it is:-

“Margaret and Henry (My input: Yes, that Margaret and Henry) emerged from the Wars of the Roses in triumph but it could well have been otherwise. Widows who took their sons’ part in any kind of intrigue ran the risk of ending up destitute and in prison, a fate which Margaret had brought on herself for the part she had played in the conspiracy against Richard III in 1483.”

What howlers!!! She wasn’t a widow (unfortunately, because that blessed state would have meant Thomas, Lord Stanley had carked it—wishfully in a double ‘tragedy’ with his brother William) nor was she destitute or in prison. She had plotted against Richard, but her only punishment was to be placed in her husband’s care and not actually lose anything! Richard was too lenient, as usual. Oh, to be able to go back and put him on the right track where his foes were concerned! If I’d been him, Margaret Beaufort would indeed have been widowed, destitute and locked up forever (in a damp underground dungeon) with the key ‘lost’ somewhere in the North Sea.

So, Ms Leyser’s book clearly cannot be relied upon for anything. One small sentence contains three whacking great mistakes. Widowhood, destitution and imprisonment. What point is there in hoping the rest of the book will be better? So, a great disappointment, and I’d only looked at page 174!

Sherlock Holmes and the Mystery of Mr Warbeck

Giaconda's Blog

sherlock head

Sherlock and Watson are on a case. They have time travelled back to the C15th to try and uncover the truth behind the mysterious disappearance of the ‘Princes in the Tower’ but the trail has gone cold with multiple possibilities and suspects, if they were indeed murdered at all. Sherlock hopes to find new clues about their fate in the legend of Perkin Warbeck.

Rain is falling and a dank mist rising off the river as Sherlock and Watson emerge from the precincts of the Tower and make their way along the web of lanes which lead to the area known as the ‘minories’.

Sherlock wraps his great coat around him to keep out the chill air. Watson looks wary. There are thieves in the shadows and a drunken brawl going on in one of the ale houses nearby.

‘Where now then?’ askes Watson.

‘Deeper into our net of intrigue, Watson.’ Sherlock…

View original post 2,866 more words

King Arthur, King Richard and the Wars of the Roses….

 

Arthur and Richard

The following is just a little diversion; the result of that strange half–world we go into when we’re dropping off to sleep. There I was, not counting sheep, but matching Arthurian characters with figures from the Wars of the Roses. Now, I am not an expert on Arthur, or indeed on Richard, just an amateur who likes both.

The list isn’t complete, of course, and I have picked out facts to suit my pairings, but it proved an interesting exercise. No doubt many will disagree with my choices (and my interpretation) but that’s fine, I’d love to see other suggestions – polite ones, that is! And if anyone notices glaring omissions, please, please fill in the gaps. The greatest omission, of course, is Merlin. I just couldn’t think of anyone to fit that particular bill.

One thing – it was difficult to always distinguish between Gorlois and Uther, so I apologise for the odd hop between the two.

Here goes:– 

Arthur – a great king betrayed and killed in battle – son of Ygraine and Uther Pendragon:

Richard III – a great king betrayed and killed in battle son of Cecily, Duchess of York and Richard, Duke of York.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Agravain – joined Mordred:

Thomas, Lord Stanley – joined Henry “Tudor”

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Bedivere – survives Camlann and throws Excalibur back to Lady of the Lake, dedicated to Arthur:

Francis Lovell – survives Bosworth and fights on for House of York, dedicated to Richard.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Bors the Elder –Arthur’s ally:

John Howard, Duke of Norfolk, Arthur’s ally.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Camelot:

Middleham and England under Richard.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Claudas – Frankish king hostile to Arthur:

Charles VIII, King of France, Richard’s foe.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Constantine II of Britain – Arthur’s grandfather:

Richard of Conisburgh, 3rd Earl of Cambridge, Richard III’s grandfather.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Dagonet, Arthur’s court jester:

Martin or John, Richard’s court jesters.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Elaine of Benoic, mother of Lancelot, sees him again after many years apart:

Margaret Beaufort – mother of Henry Tudor, sees him again after many years apart.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Galahad, Lancelot’s illegitimate son:

Roland de Vielleville – Henry Tudor’s rumoured illegitimate son – although, from all accounts, definitely lacking Galahad’s gallantry and purity.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Garlon a wicked, invisible knight who kills other knights:

John Morton, who works ‘invisibly’ behind the scenes to bring about Richard’s death. Nasty as they come!

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Gawain, Arthur’s brave nephew:

John de la Pole, Earl of Lincoln, Richard’s brave nephew

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Gawain’s brothers killed by Lancelot:

Lincoln’s brothers – persecuted and executed by Henry Tudor.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Gorlois of Cornwall, cuckolded by Uther Pendragon:

Richard, Duke of York, who was allegedly cuckolded by the archer Blaybourne, resulting in birth of Edward IV.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Guinevere – accused of destroying Camelot because of her affair with Lancelot:

Elizabeth of York – ended the hopes of the House of York by marrying Henry Tudor.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Hector – raised Arthur in his household:

Warwick the Kingmaker – in whose household Richard was trained as a boy.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Hector de Maris, younger half–brother of Lancelot:

John Welles, Viscount Welles, younger half–brother of Margaret Beaufort and half-nephew of Henry Tudor.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Holy Grail:

Crown of England

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Iseult of Ireland, wife of Mark of Cornwall and adulterous lover of Sir Tristan:

Margaret of Anjou, queen of Henry VI, but probable lover of Edmund Beaufort, 2nd Duke of Somerset, who might have been the father of Edward of Lancaster.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Kay – Arthur’s foster brother:

Robert Percy – close childhood friend of Richard III.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Lady of the Lake/Nimue – provided weapon – Excalibur/Caliburn – for Arthur:

Margaret of Burgundy – provided weapons and finance for the House of York

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Lynette – sister of Lyonesse:            

Isabel Neville, wife of George of Clarence

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Lyonesse – Entrapped sister of Lynette; rescued by Gareth, whom she eventually marries:

Anne Neville, held by brother–in–law, George of Clarence but then rescued and married by Richard III.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Lancelot – unfaithful to Arthur with Guinevere and as a consequence brought down Camelot:

Henry “Tudor” – thinks Richard is his rival for Elizabeth of York, and is responsible for destroying Richard and the House of York at Bosworth – through treachery on the field.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Llamrei, a mare owned by Arthur:

White Surrey, said to be the name of Richard’s horse.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Loholt – Arthur’s illegitimate son:

John of Gloucester, Richard’s illegitimate son.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Madoc, Uther’s son–

Edward IV – Richard, Duke of York’s son or Blaybourne’s son, but still acknowledged as York’s. (I can’t find another son of Uther Pendragon, and so conflate George of Clarence with Edward IV. Sorry.)

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Merlin – (Can’t think of anyone of WOTR suited to this important role!)

(Sara Nur has now suggested Stillington for Merlin, which I think is a good idea.)

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Mordred – who changed sides and killed Arthur at Camlann:

Sir William Stanley, who changed sides and was responsible for Richard’s death at Bosworth.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Morgan le Fay – Arthur’s implacable foe but is finally reconciled with him and is one of the queens who take him to Avalon:

Elizabeth Woodville – at first she is Richard’s implacable foe, but is then reconciled.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Nantres – a king married to Arthur’s sister and hostile to him:

Henry Stafford, 2nd Duke of Buckingham – Richard’s cousin and enemy.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Pinel – a knight who tries to poison Gawain to avenge Lamerok’s murder:

William, Lord Hastings – who almost certainly plotted to overthrow Richard to avenge (as he saw it) the children of Edward IV. Was beheaded for his treachery.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Red and white dragons – Merlin predicts that the white dragon will win:

Houses of York and Lancaster – York wins when Edward IV topples Henry VI.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

The Green Knight, enchanted by Morgan le Fay:

Anthony Woodville, 2nd Earl Rivers, influenced by his sister, Elizabeth Woodville.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Tristan, lover of Iseult of Ireland:

Edmund Beaufort, 2nd Duke of Somerset, probable lover of Margaret of Anjou.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Uther Pendragon – in the legends, Uther is transformed into the image of Gorlois in order to bed Ygraine:

Blaybourne – an archer – supposedly cuckolded the Duke of York and sired Edward IV – only a rumour.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Vortigern – king who eventually lost his throne to the ‘white dragon’:

Henry VI – his incompetence and inability led to the return to England of Edward IV.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Vortigern’s son, killed by Saxon invaders:

Edward of Lancaster, killed by the House of York at Tewkesbury.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Ygraine, Arthur’s mother through Uther Pendragon:

Cecily Neville, Duchess of York, mother of Richard by the Duke of York.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

KING’S GAMES: A MEMOIR OF RICHARD III

A Verse Play in Two Acts with Commentaries

By Nance Crawford

The play’s the thing wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the king”

(Hamlet)

To be honest, I am not much taken with modern Ricardian fiction. I think that in the last five centuries too much fiction and too little fact has  been written about king Richard III. It was, therefore, with some trepidation that I volunteered to review Nance Crawford’s book ‘King’s Games; a memoir of Richard III’. It is (to misquote a modern footballing cliché) a game of two parts. The first part is a play about king Richard written in verse; the second, comprises the authors commentaries on late medieval England and her account of how the play was conceived, written and ultimately produced for the stage.

 

I have always thought that plays are better performed than read and since I have not seen Kings Games performed I am at a disadvantage in forming a valid opinion of its merit. The absence of actors and a director to ‘suite the words to the action and the action to the words’ (Hamlet again!) is not just inconvenient; it is a substantial hindrance to a full appreciation of the author’s art as I have only my own imperfect imagination and understanding to rely on. Nonetheless, whilst I cannot vouchsafe an opinion about how well this play transfers from the page to the stage, I can say with some conviction that I enjoyed reading it.

 

King’s Games is a mixture of fact and fiction. The author has tried to ensure the historical accuracy; however, inevitably, she has had to fill the gaps in our knowledge with her imagination. Though only eight of the twenty-one scenes are based on verified historical facts all the scenes conform to the general Ricardian narrative of Richard’s life and times, partly taken from Paul Kendall’s 1955 biography. Naturally the dialogue is imaginary. Considering how influential Shakespeare’s melodrama has been in embedding the black legend of Richard in the public psyche it is not surprising that a modern Ricardian playwright would wish to portray him in a different light; though mercifully, not the pure white legend that some would have us believe but in shades of grey. This Richard is a decent man, but fallible.

 

Apart from the use of verse, this play bears no relationship to Shakespeare’s work; the characters are less melodramatic the action is more restrained. Neither does the author try to compete with Shakespearean verse. Her own distinctive mixture of colloquial Anglo-American English and Standard English is refreshingly modern and contributed greatly to my own appreciation of her efforts. The character of Cecily Neville provides two example of this; in the first, Cecily is comforting her dying son Edward:

 

“ Well tears are for Heaven, not this place,

No, not for partings short as this, I think,

And Heaven’s waiting for you, that we know —

Your Pa and Edmund, even Georgie,

With Isobel and both their unborn babes —

The Lord be willing to forgive our debts”

 

In the second example, Cecily is angry with Richard:

 

Cecily. But it’s not cruel to scar my name?

To slander at the Cross the womb that bore

And nurtured you, to live to this sad pass? (Turning to Richard)

Yes, slandered sir! Held up to ridicule!

With such a loathsome story as would make

A harlot blush!

Anne. He’d never do you harm!

Cecily. The serpents tooth has struck the very breast

That sheltered him, the womb that gave him life,

And God alone knows what price he’ll pay”

Anne. Please, no, you can’t blame Dickon.

Cecily.                                                      Can I not?”          

 

The first act opens in June 1487. Francis 1st viscount Lovell is a fugitive from the battle of Stoke where Henry Tudor crushed England’s the last hope for a Plantagenet king. Hot from the battle he takes refuge in his family seat at Minster Lovell. There, exhausted and encrusted with the mud and blood of battle he sits alone in a secret room to ponder his desperate future and the destruction of the House of York. It is through Lovell’s lonely and sometimes anguished reminiscences that — in the form of flashbacks — we witness Richard’s pathetic descent from the most powerful subject in the kingdom, to a lonely guilt-ridden king.

 

The brutal truth is that this Richard is not cut out to be a successful medieval king. He is brave, loyal and efficient but he lacks the judgment, arrogance, guile and ruthlessness necessary to survive for long in the vicious realpolitik of late medieval England. He is naïve even gullible in the trust he places in untrustworthy men. He is not selfish enough to do what he wants to do rather than what his advisors say he should do. Ultimately, he is too given to introspection.  On hearing  of Buckingham’s rebellion he confides to his friend Francis Lovell:

 

“ I contemplate my brother Edward’s flaws

And see myself a darker image there

In my soul’s mirror, for, except for you,

My friend, I’m proved a rotten jurist when

It comes to judging men. I have now learned.”

 

It is doubtful that he ever wanted to be a king.

 

“ Crowns, to me, were bitter, paper things

Cut out to top my brother Edmund’s brow,

To match that of my father’s sad display,

When both their heads had crowned the gates at York.

Ned could not know my cares, he was now king,

More tall and gold than any plated spire.

I asked him why he wanted to be king .

He said ‘it is the pleasure of a king

To find his pleasure at his own plaisir’

His instincts made him royal — but never mine”

 

Richard is also inhibited from freedom of action by his personal and unforgiving creed of loyalty. He could not  seize a  crown merely to take his pleasure at his pleasure. For him kingship is a solemn duty, a burden to be borne. He is unable to reconcile the conflict between his loyalty to those he loved and his broader regal responsibility to rule justly in the common interest. Inevitably,since he is a man of conscience, he is consumed with guilt about his inability to protect his wife, his son, his mother and his brothers’ children.

 

On the night before Bosworth, Anne visits him in a dream. Although she cannot offer him redemption for all his sins, her ghostly presence enables him.  to unburden his guilt and his grief for their lost son who died “all alone while his parents played at Crowns” and his lost love Anne, whom he abandoned in her hour of greatest need as she lay dying.  Anne’s love for Richard is unconditional and her forgiveness fortifies him; he is able to face his fate, whatever that may be.

 

In the morning his courage and resolve are unimpaired. He knows he cannot trust Stanley or Northumberland but he is confident of dispatching Henry Tudor if he can just get to within a sword’s length of him. He is also aware that whatever happens England has changed forever and if he survives he must change also. As he puts on his helm encircled with the English Crown he whispers silently to Anne’s spirit “Well Anna they will all know the king.” Indeed they will. Everybody knows how the last Plantagenet king met his end.

 

The second part of King’s Games is altogether different in kind and in form. Richard is no longer centre stage; the author and the play now occupy that space. The summary of the Wars of the Roses is neither scholarly nor measured. It is tolerably accurate without providing any new historical material or insight into those times: yet I found it gripping. What made it so, is the author’s colourful, informal writing style and her feisty opinions. Her history is frank and informative, her style is anything but pompous and she avoids the use of pseudo intellectual ‘babble’ (“Playwrights have no use for numbered footnotes”). Together, these qualities create a warm relationship between the author and the reader that is almost personal; it’s as though we are discussing history together, over coffee. It is the very antithesis of so many dry, intellectual and academic histories that I have read.

 

I also thought the author’s story of her play from its conception to the first night’s performance was enthralling. The gestation was a long one since originally she had intended to write a stage version of Josephine Tey’s ‘The Daughter of Time’. That proved to be impossible as the rights were not readily available and anyhow, she concluded, a play built around a policeman confined to his hospital bed lacked dramatic impact. It was the fortuitous discovery of a mystery surrounding the eventual fate of Francis Lovell that provided the mechanism to bring King’s games to the stage; he could become ‘Alan Grant’ for the purpose of guiding us through the action.

 

Ultimately King’s Games is a lively and entertaining example of Ricardian literature and a breath of fresh air.

The Worst Name in the Ricardian World?

I recently found out that the famous explorer, Stanley (he of “Dr Livingstone, I presume” fame) had chosen his name as a tribute to the man who unofficially adopted him, which is fair enough.  It was just a shame that his adopted father’s surname was STANLEY.
But it gets worse, his choices for his christian names were HENRY (also after his ‘father’) and MORTON! Could there be a worse name to choose from a Ricardian perspective? His original name was John Rowlands, a much better name in my opinion. But let us give him the benefit of the doubt – surely this unfortunate choice of name must have been a sad coincidence?
But hold on, there are a few more coincidences at work here – I have read a little about his life and I found out he was born a bastard… in Wales! This is beginning to sound rather familiar – we all know another Welshman, of bastard stock, called Henry. And guess what!?  Henry VII and Henry Morton Stanley were both born on the same date – 28th January!! Neither were brought up by their mother for most of their childhood. Both crossed the sea to find a better life for themselves – Henry VII to England and Henry Morton Stanley to America.
Stanley later explored Africa, notably the Congo, but he was seen by some as unnecessarily cruel and admitted himself that he was thought of as ‘hard’. The Rev. J. P. Farler met with African porters who had been part of one of Stanley’s expedition and wrote the following: “Stanley’s followers give dreadful accounts to their friends of the killing of inoffensive natives, stealing their ivory and goods, selling their captives, and so on.”
Henry VII was also seen as a hard man, he also killed inoffensive people (eg Edward, Earl of Warwick) and he also stole from ordinary people (harsh taxes/Morton’s fork).
Coincidence?

Do you see the resemblance between their pictures? No? OK, maybe that’s pushing it a bit too far!

Picture of Henry Morton Stanley             Henry7England

If you want to read more about Henry Morton Stanley click here

Image credits:  H M Stanley: See page (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AHenry_Morton_Stanley.jpg) for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Henry VII: By Unknown; NPG attributes to unknown artist, others suggest by Michel Sittow. (Uploaded by en:User:Isis and en:User:Andre Engels) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

12 surprising facts about the Wars of the Roses

Thanks to Matt Lewis:

http://www.historyextra.com/article/military-history/12-facts-wars-roses?utm_source=Facebook+referral&utm_medium=Facebook.com&utm_campaign=Bitly

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